Goat busters – celebrating 20 years of tackling pests in Victorias Mallee

Parks Victoria

Sometimes you’ve just got to grab the goat by the horns when dealing with a problem pest.

That’s exactly what Parks Victoria and the Sporting Shooters‘ Association of Australia (Victoria) decided to do 20 years ago when they came together to take aim at the herds of feral goats which were impacting the Mallee region in Victoria’s northwest.

Since its inception in 2003, this ongoing partnership between Parks Victoria and SSAA Victoria has been instrumental in addressing the ecological challenges posed by feral goats, which often wreak havoc on native vegetation and compete with local wildlife for resources.

The Mallee region is part of an enduring Aboriginal landscape which includes places of incredible natural beauty like Wyperfeld National Park, Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, and Murray-Sunset National Park.

The Mallee is characterized by its semi-arid landscape and woodlands which grow slowly over time, making them particularly susceptible to the detrimental effects of invasive species like goats, making the need for effective management strategies paramount.

A goat with a tracking collar

Photo: Tracking collars like this one can be useful to find herds of feral goats in the Mallee scrublands.

Feral goats are particularly bad for the Mallee environment. Their cloven hoofs damage the soil, they overgraze mature trees and seedlings, and they outcompete many native mammals for these resources. As a result, canopy and shrub regeneration is almost impossible due to their presence, and this can have a knock-on effect for other species.

For example, overgrazing by feral goats can prevent seedlings of plants like the Slender Cypress-pine from maturing, which birds like the iconic Pink Cockatoo need for vital habitat.

However, thanks to the partnership between SSAA Victoria and Parks Victoria, more than 6500 feral goats have been removed from Murray-Sunset National Park, the largest national park in Victoria, with thousands more across other parts of the Mallee. The long-term commitment by SSAA Victoria volunteers to assist in removing goats from the Mallee parks has been instrumental in the recovery of native flora and fauna in the region.

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